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Saturday, February 29, 2020

economic news of india - world economic news - economics news for students - indian economy news

economic news of india - world economic news - economics news for students - indian economy news


Is the new I-T dispute settlement scheme attractive enough?

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The government's November 2016 decision to ban certain currency notes had come as a shock to people with unaccounted wealth. It helped the income tax (I-T) department identify and go after high-value bank depositors. That led to a lot of tax disputes as the depositors contested the department's claims. Now, some of them who were served tax notices — and in some cases faced income tax (I-T) department's surveys and raids before getting tax demands — may find a remedy in a government scheme, Vivad Se Vishwas.The distinctive feature of the new tax disclosure scheme, which Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced in her budget speech on February 1, is that it promises to wipe off the stigma that usually follows an I-T notice or raid. The legislation has been designed as a dispute resolution scheme rather than a pure amnesty tool, where concessions are usually linked to voluntary disclosure of hidden assets. The fine print of the legislation, however, will be known only after the law gets notified.MC Joshi, former chairman, CBDT, "People who did sham transactions in penny stocks will use this new scheme. Many of the post-demonetisation cases, now at the appellate stage, may also get settled. Boards of major listed companies that are answerable to their shareholders may not join the bandwagon.The Direct Tax Vivad Se Vishwas Bill 2020 was tabled in Lok Sabha in February and is likely to be passed after Parliament reconvenes on March 2. It targets to bring down the 4.83 lakh direct tax disputes pending in various appellate forums, including courts, involving Rs 9.32 lakh crore, which translates to about 5% of India's gross domestic product (GDP).TAX TUSSLEAmount under dispute (in Rs crore) as on Sep 30, 2019OVER 1 YEAR BUT LESS THAN 2 YEARS 638,432 (3.4% OF GDP)OVER 2 YEARS BUT LESS THAN 5 YEARS 312,655 (1.6% OF GDP)OVER 10 YEARS 14,180 -0.1% OF GDPOVER 5 YEARS BUT LESS THAN 10 YEARS- 31,526 (0.2 PER CENT OF GDP)Note: Nominal GDP 2018-19 Source: Standing committee on finance, demand for grants 2019-20, second report The scheme also aims to mop up some tax revenue, as the government expects direct tax collection to fall short of the target of Rs 13.35 lakh crore for the current financial year.Tax Revenue The new scheme gives amnesty to those are who willing to settle their cases before March 31 by paying the I-T department's tax claim. It also gives full waiver on interests and penalties. Those availing the scheme between April and June will have to cough up 10% extra on the disputed tax.Tax experts and retired income-tax officials say none of the big corporate houses are likely to be attracted towards the scheme. So it remains a window to settle post-demonetisation I-T cases, disputes over penny stocks involving sham transactions and the cases connected to shell companies, just to name a few. 74419791 Sudhir Kapadia, national tax leader, EY "New Vivad Se Vishwas is a well-designed scheme with no stigma attached to those who are willing to settle cases. But it will make sense only for smaller companies and those individuals who are under scanner for depositing cash after demonetisation. Big corporates are unlikely to come forward""The boards of major listed companies, which are answerable to their shareholders, may not agree to the scheme," says MC Joshi, former chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), hinting that the scheme is unlikely to be a runaway hit in mopping up substantial revenue. He points out that cases related to demonetisation, most of which are at the first stage of appeal at the Commissioner of Income Tax (Appeals), and penny stocks could be resolved through this scheme.AFTER NOTE BAN Between November 2016, when demonetisation was announced, and March 2017, when the financial year ended - Source- Finance Ministry900- No. of searches by I-T departmentRs 636- Cash seizure during the searchesRs 6,745- Undisclosed amount detected during I-T department's 8,239 surveys17.92 LAKH- No. of queries sent via email, SMS, etc, to high-value depositors immediately after note ban 3.78LAKH- No of cases finally pursued by I-T officials; verification was closed for cases where deposits were disclosed under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan YojanaThe CBDT is dealing with several cases related to tax evasion through bogus capital gains or loss claims in penny stock transactions.Sudhir Kapadia, national tax leader at EY, says there has to be more sweeteners to position the Vivad Se Vishwas scheme as an attractive proposition. However, the scheme is well-designed to wipe away the stigma attached with I-T cases. 74419874 "But it will make sense only for smaller companies and individuals who are under the scanner for depositing cash after demonetisation," he adds.Kapadia has a reason to make this argument. Bigger companies usually have multiple cases with the Income Tax department at any given point. This scheme allows resolution only if a company is willing to settle all the cases relating to a period. 74419971 R Prasad, former chairman, CBDT, "To my mind, the depositors of big amount of cash after demonetisation are unlikely to settle their disputes unless they are on a weak ground. For example, some unscrupulous jewellers did wrongdoings on demonetisation days. But honest jewellers are also in trouble now.For example, if a company is dealing with five claims by the I-T department, and its lawyers are almost certain of winning three cases, it is unlikely that the board will give a go-ahead to close all the cases and pay the taxes claimed. But under Vivad Se Vishwas, the company would have to settle all the five cases or none at all.WHAT IS VIVAD SE VISHWAS?*The Direct Tax Vivad Se Vishwas Bill 2020 was introduced in Lok Sabha in February after the scheme was announced in the Budget*It seeks to resolve direct tax dispute cases pending before various appellate forums — commissioner (appeals), ITATs, high courts and the Supreme Court*Those willing to settle the cases before March 31 may just need to pay the taxes and secure a full waiver on interests and penalties*The scheme is supposed to remain open till June 30, but those availing it after March 31 need to pay extra*The bill is likely to be passed in the first week of March when Parliament reconvenesEY had recently written to the revenue department urging some flexibility in the scheme so that companies can settle at least some of the pending issues. It also requested the government to offer up to 50% benefit in the tax claims instead of 100%.Last year, the government rolled out Sabka Vishwas, a scheme to settle pending disputes related to indirect taxes. That scheme, which offered complete waiver on interest and penalty and provided immunity from prosecution, was billed a success after the government managed to mop up Rs 39,000 crore. The scheme allowed cases to be settled after payment of 50% of the disputed amount, against 100% in the latest scheme. 74419929 Note: % of total appeals; CIT(A) is Commissioner of Income-Tax (Appeals); Income Tax Appellate Tribunal Source: Government's response in Rajya Sabha; July 23, 2019.In the direct tax segment, a voluntary income tax disclosure scheme of 1997 had earned the government Rs 9,729 crore. It was considered one of the most successful schemes.The Vivad Se Vishwas direct tax scheme, on the other hand, gives a waiver to only interest and penalties, raising questions if it would be seen as being attractive enough. Understandably, the highest chunk of appeals in direct tax, almost 70% of the 4.83 lakh disputed cases, are at the first stage of appeal — the Commissioner of Income Tax (Appeals) — according to 2018-19 data released by the government last July in a response to a question in the Rajya Sabha.Usually, it takes two to three years to resolve such a case. After a verdict, the affected party can appeal to the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) where 92,205 cases — roughly one out of five disputed cases — were pending till March 31, 2019. A litigation in ITAT may typically take a couple of more years. If a company or an individual is unhappy with the ITAT order, an appeal can be filed in a high court and subsequently in the Supreme Court.Usually, I-T disputes involving individuals are resolved at the ITAT unless there is a dispute regarding the interpretation of the law. Besides, arguing a case in a high court or the Supreme Court is expensive. So cases reach this stage only if the stakes are high.As on March 31, 2019, as many as 43,244 direct tax cases, or 8.9% of the total, were being heard by various high courts. As many as 6,188 cases were with the Supreme Court. In terms of tax demands under dispute, cases involving Rs 6.4 lakh crore, or 3.4% of GDP, have been under litigation for 1-2 years. Cases involving Rs 3.12 lakh crore, or 1.6% of GDP, have been under litigation for 2-5 years.The CBDT has not disclosed how many tax disputes are rooted in demonetisation, when the government declared invalid all 500 and 1,000 rupee notes in circulation then. Citizens were given about two months to deposit these invalid currency notes in their bank accounts.Immediately after the deadline ended, on December 31, 2016, the tax authority issued 17.92 lakh notices, some even in the form of SMSes, to those who were believed to have done some suspicious transactions right after demonetisation. Later, the CBDT narrowed their focus to 3.78 lakh cases — mostly involving deposits of Rs 5 lakh or above.The government said the verification process would be closed for cases where deposits have been disclosed under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana 2016. The scheme gave amnesty to persons who declare unaccounted wealth and paid a fine of 50% of the undisclosed amount. This scheme fetched the government just Rs 4,900 crore.The tax sleuths, in the meantime, stepped up pressure on some companies and individuals, especially jewellers and people with large real estate holdings. The I-T department conducted thousands of surveys and searches to locate black money. Between November 2016 and March 2017, searches were conducted at 900 companies leading to cash seizure of Rs 636 crore. Additionally, Rs 6,745 crore of undisclosed amount was detected during the department's 8,239 surveys, according to government data.According to the I-T Act, sleuths can either survey or search a place for undisclosed wealth. In layman's terms, these operations are usually called a raid.By the beginning of 2019, the tax authority had realised that as many as 87,000 of their demonetisation-related notices were being ignored. The entities named in these notices hadn't paid taxes or filed returns, says a tax official on condition of anonymity. Many jewellers had seen bumper sales in the days immediately after demonetisation as people rushed to buy gold, considered a safe haven investment.The I-T department found that most of the jewellery sales during this period happened on November 6 and 7, a day before demonetisation was announced. This led tax officers to suspect that the jewellers prepared backdated invoices to cover up the purchases made after the note ban using black money.The I-T department sent notices to these jewellers. However, these people moved the CIT (appeal), the officer adds. The CBDT even extended the deadline for assessing officers to close demonetisation cases to December 31, 2019.Matter of Trust The government now hopes that a large number of individuals who are contesting the post-demonetisation notices may choose vishwas (trust) over vivad (dispute). Tax experts say this assumption could be right.But the I-T department must not expect a windfall collection. "To my mind, the depositors of big amounts of cash after demonetisation are unlikely to settle their disputes unless they are on a weak ground. Some unscrupulous jewellers might have conduced illegal trades after demonetisation. But honest jewellers are also haunted by a possible I-T nightmare," says R Prasad, a former CBDT chairman.The silver lining is that the scheme is designed as a dispute settlement mechanism and not one crafted to chase hoarders of black money. It remains to be seen if businessmen will trust the I-T department to settle their disputes.

How Indian varsities can become Harvard-like

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Scientists in India need to inculcate a higher level of ambition to improve research and education, chemistry Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan told ET Magazine while on a visit to Delhi last month. "Just investing in infrastructure isn't enough. Scientists in China, for example, have big ambitions. They are interested in competing with the best in the West," he said.Though India has some globally reputed universities, none of these has reached anywhere near the stature of the famous institutes of higher learning in the US and Europe. This even as universities from China are becoming standard fixtures on world university rankings.The UK-based Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2020, which covers 1,400 universities across 92 countries, showed that Mainland China now has three on the top 100 list. "The country's universities have continued to expand their influence & presence on the world stage," it said. 74418863 India has not been able to place any institute within the top 100. "It is the first time that an Indian university has not featured in the top 300 of the ranking since 2012, when just a single institution from the country, the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, was ranked," THE said.The first Indian name on the 2020 list was IISc-Bangalore — ranked at 301-350, down from 251-300 earlier. The range indicates multiple universities are placed in the same rank. For example, 301-350 means 49 institutions are ranked at 301 and the next institution on the list will be ranked at 351. THE said the decline in the ranking was "due to a significant fall in IISc's research citation impact score offsetting improvements in research environment, teaching environment and industry income".However, there was a beacon of hope for the country. IIT-Ropar debuted on the list at 301-350. How did an Indian Institute of Technology set up only in 2008 make it to the list? "We set out with a strategic plan to achieve the ranking, with the help of IIM-Kolkata," says the director of IIT-Ropar, Sarit Das. It focused on quality research to achieve 100% on the research citation parameter and hired faculty from universities in Chicago, Boston and Singapore, among others. "We also made huge resources available for them to set up labs and other infrastructure for research," Das adds.This shows that Indian universities can score high if there is a sustained and determined effort to make improvements in parameters such as hiring more international faculty, investing in research facilities and improving student-faculty ratio. Poor rankings also impede the Study in India programme, which aims to attract global students. A good score makes it easier for an institute to enter into a partnership with a global one. "We use data analytics and rankings to decide which university is a good fit for us to partner with," said Jenny Dixon, deputy vicechancellor (strategic engagement), at the University of Auckland, while in Delhi for a workshop in February.Top Indian institutions have started to understand that international rankings are not a conspiracy to downgrade India but a way to provide them with a global footing, says Ashwin Fernandes, regional director (MENA and South Asia) of Quacquarelli Symonds, a London-based organisation that puts out an annual university ranking. "The ministry of human resource development, especially minister Ramesh Pokhriyal, is paving the way for several initiatives to improve the global branding of institutions. We will soon see an Indian institute in the top 100," Fernandes says.MARKING PARAMETERS 74418912 74418921 The rise of Chinese universities has made rankings all the more important, says Kanika T Bhal, dean-planning at IITDelhi. "We're prioritising steps that will help improve our ranking," says Bhal, explaining that the IIT has improved its student-faculty ratio and hired more international staff. "Last year, we improved our score on the rankings put out by every agency except QS World. So we must be getting it right on the ranking metrics."Even the ministry of human resource development & the University Grants Commission have realised the importance of rankings. They have tagged 10 public and 10 private institutes that can emerge as world-class teaching and research centres as Institutions of Eminence. "Indian institutions were sceptical and dismissive of rankings earlier. But now the thinking has changed," says C Raj Kumar, vice-chancellor of the Sonipat-based OP Jindal Global University ( JGU), which has found a place in Indian and global rankings. JGU, which was set up in 2009, set up a dedicated office two years ago to understand ranking methodologies.In fact, several new universities are making the necessary changes required to get a good ranking. "Our focus has been to improve research credentials and have tie-ups with foreign universities for internships, research and faculty development programmes," says Sachin Jain, president of Bennett University. (Bennett University is a part of the Times Group, which publishes The ET Magazine.)Ashoka University, founded in 2014, says its 150 faculty members are engaged in teaching and doing cutting-edge research. Though the university has not participated in any ranking process, vicechancellor Malabika Sarkar says getting a good global score is a long-term goal. "When Ashoka does participate in rankings, these factors will definitely enhance the university's performance," she adds. It is time for universities to learn a lesson or two.

Delhi riot victims stare at an uncertain future

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Gali No. 4 of Khajuri Khas Extension in Northeast Delhi is charred to the bone. Mukeem, a middle-aged owner of a furniture store, is searching through the debris of a building that was both his home and shop. He claims he has lost properties worth Rs 1 crore. Sarkari muaavaza (official compensation), whatever be the amount, would mean nothing, he says, considering the damage he and his family have suffered. "My home and warehouse were first looted and then set on fire," he says, adding that the attack was wellplanned, with many carrying cutting tools and keys to break open doors and shutters. He now stays with his relatives in nearby Chandu Nagar, with no clue of what lies ahead.It is a week since riots spread across Northeast Delhi — the worst the capital has seen since the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984 — and what is left are frightened people, burnt-down lanes, abandoned homes, an uneasy calm and an uncertain future. Mohammed Asad, a student, leads us to the home of his uncle, Mehboob, who rents out space in his covered parking lot. All 23 vehicles parked there, including two auto-rickshaws & Asad's Royal Enfield bike, are reduced to a mangled heap of metal. "I had paid only three instalments of my bike. What remains is the iron relic of my pride," says Asad. 74420070 Their homes burnt down and papers lost, many residents fear they would face difficulties in claiming insurance. ET Magazine counted at least 20 charred houses in the single by-lane of Khajuri Khas Extension where Mukeem and Mehboob live. Saira Bano, holding her three-month-old daughter Anisha, weeps as she says, "As our house was burning, there was no way we could take the stairs. From the fourth floor, we dropped our child into the hands of someone on the second floor. From the second floor, we again dropped her to someone on the ground floor. Then we ran for our lives."Many had escaped by the skin of their teeth. "We saw the rioters coming. So we shut our shop and went upstairs. But the rioters broke open the shutter and set everything on fire," recalls Mohammed Jamid, who runs a bakery at Chand Bagh with 12 other family members, including his sons and daughters-in-law. What remain are sooty walls and burnt remains of the machines and the display counter. He estimates the losses of his movable assets to be about Rs 12 lakh. 74420078 In Chand Bagh, one of the violence-hit neighbourhoods, several shops and homes are burnt and by-lanes are strewn with ashes and debris.Sunder Lal has opened his grocery shop after a week. So has Sujan Singh. Sundar, 65, says he saw rioters burning one shop after the other in just two hours on Tuesday evening. He points towards the shops — Sasaar Sweet House, Jain grocery shop, a Vaishnav dhaba and Bunny ice cream shop.In nearby Maujpur, SK Sharma is reading his morning newspaper outside his fodder shop. "If Muslims have lost their homes, so have Hindus. It is time to count our losses and get back to work," he says. Everyone, Hindu and Muslim, has a harrowing story to share. It also often reveals the mistrust and divide between the two communities.A few Hindus in Chand Bagh allege they saw councillor Tahir Hussain, who has recently been expelled from the Aam Aadmi Party, pelting petrol bomb and acid from his multi-storey building, while some Muslim residents claim he is a saviour. 74420092 "I lost the keys of my sweet shop on Monday when rioters came to our area and wreaked havoc," says Sujan Singh, pointing towards Hussain's home. But Singh says it's now time to leave behind the horror and return to business.Agrees Muhammed Sabit, a Muslim manager at Khullar Tempo Transport Service, owned by a Hindu: "Both sides have suffered. Had police been deployed on time, I feel the losses would have been bare minimum." He was the first to open his shop on the main Bhajanpura road on Saturday morning.They are trying to pick up the pieces and piece together their lives. But the wounds are still raw and the losses have yet to be counted.

Borrowed joy: Decoding the digital credit boom of India

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SK Basu, 67, and Santanu Basu, his 33-year-old son, live under the same roof. But they inhabit different worlds. The senior Basu, a Kolkata-based retired BSNL executive, has lived frugally, pinching pennies all his life to build two houses and educate his son. To him, a holiday means a short break in Puri, Odisha, on a shoe-string budget. The only loan he ever took was to build a house in 2002. He doesn't own a car and gets around on a bicycle or public transport.The junior Basu is cut from a different cloth. Founder of a gaming startup with 16 staffers and the backing of investors, he is an ace virtual gamer who leads an unapologetic "work hard, party harder" lifestyle. He has travelled to 50-odd countries and has four credit cards.Gaming consoles, gifts for his girlfriend and overseas holidays are big-ticket expenses. He draws Rs 45,000 salary from his startup, with periodic bonuses from game wins. His monthly credit card payments often add up to Rs 1 lakh. So, he revolves his credit. "On one I pay the entire outstanding. On others, I pay enough to avoid default," he says. Zero-cost equated monthly installments (EMIs) are a weakness. That's how he stretches his income. "I don't know how to save," he admits. He plans to invest in a house when he wins a big championship bonus next.The contrasting financial habits of the Basus are an example of what's playing out across the country — setting aside our traditional aversion to debt, young Indians are saving less and borrowing more, sometimes at exorbitant interest rates under terms that they don't fully understand, to fund a rosy lifestyle.But it's more than that. This generational shift in attitudes has intersected with a massive digital disruption in the business of lending, causing an expansion in capacity and a drop in costs, allowing companies to bring more and more people into the ambit of formal credit.Within this large trend, there are five discernible shifts. First, lending is moving online — a person in need of a loan today is far likelier to fill up a form on a website than walk into a bank branch. Second, a raft of fintech firms have sprung up, offering all kinds of convenience in accessing credit. Third, young consumers identify with their brand ethos, with a much more accessible feel and aura of transparency, rather than the imposing facades of traditional banks. Fourth, even as demand for secured loans — housing loan, loan against property, and so on — are on a decline, unsecured credit, such as credit cards and personal loans with high rates of interest, is booming. And, fifth, demand for credit is increasingly coming from non-metro cities and towns."At a very macro level, our economy is moving away from high savings-low leverage to low savings-high leverage (at the household level)," says Sunil Sinha, principal economist, India Ratings.The shift is geographic, too. "The biggest growth is coming from millennials and non-metro consumers," says Anand Parameswaran, executive vice-president, Insights Division, Kantar. Between 2016 and 2018, the number of millennials availing a new credit card or loan grew by 58%, compared with 14% for non-millennials, says TransUnion CIBIL, a credit information company. A syndicated Kantar Banking study reveals that credit card penetration in non-metros is growing faster — 12% as against 4% in metro cities in 2019.Data from CIBIL shows that while growth in new accounts in secured categories such as home loan (-13% in Q3 2019 over Q3 2018) and auto loans (-1%) is turning negative, unsecured categories such as personal loans (133%) and credit cards (21%) have been surging. Banks have been preferring to make retail advances rather than corporate and industrial loans as bad loans in those sectors mounted. In December, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) cautioned banks against the trend, asking them to offset risk concentration (growth has begun to soften in this segment now). This has happened even as an estimated 2,000 fintech startups and some 300 digital lenders are stepping on the gas. Credit Vidya, a startup that assesses credit-worthiness using the digital footprint of customers says it has seen quarterly enquiries from banking institutions quadruple from 5 million to 20 million in the last two years.Deepening footprint of digital transactions — from digital payments to GST — and advanced tech mean most of the work in assessing the risk in a loan can now be done by an algorithm. "Using data, our artificial intelligence-machine learning-led algorithms can impute with a fair amount of confidence a customer's credit worthiness, her intent and future behaviour. It has improved our ability to assess credit risk in less time and cost, thanks to lowering computation costs," says Anup Bagchi, executive director, ICICI Bank.Credit bureaus such as CIBIL and Experia maintain customers' credit scores, enabling, in many instances, pre-vetted instant loans. "Digitisation has broad-based credit. Despite the big growth, delinquency has barely increased. Credit information is helping lenders vet customers and manage risks well," says Harshala Chandorkar, COO, TransUnion CIBIL. 74420492 74420499 74420505 74420509 74420522 74420529 74420533 74420540 The EnablersCredit these days is available just about anywhere. A trio comprising lenders (shadow banks, digital lenders, fintech players), shopping websites and businesses (sellers of both products and services) are coming together to offer attractive credit schemes and stoke consumer demand at just about any point of purchase, whether online or brick-and-mortar. Zero-cost EMI is their trump card. "For consumers, credit has been recast as savings. Zero-cost EMIs have not just normalised credit but also made consumption today on tomorrow's income feel more rational," says Santosh Desai, CEO, Future Brands. Often, manufacturers whose goods are being sold absorb the interest cost of such offers as part of their marketing expenses. "Breaking down a large payment into smaller chunks makes it easier and hassle-free for customers," says Gaurav Sharma, founder of new-age bank Atlantis.Traditional NBFCs such as IIFL, focused on secured lending, are partnering with startups such as Paycent, KrazyBee and Byju's, to grow the unsecured portfolio. (Byju's, an edtech startup, extends small loans to help consumers pay for their products.) "Our digital business, now at 5%, is growing at a faster clip," says Sumit Bali, CEO, IIFL.Fintech startup CASHe offers short-term credit of 2-to-12 months. CEO Ketan Patel says it uses a combination of a customer's credit scores, digital footprint and insights from social media accounts to vet them. Every month, he extends 20,000 new loans with an average ticket size of Rs 40,000 and average tenure of four months. About 95% of his customers are 24-34 years old.Even as lenders are dealing with customers who are new to credit altogether, help has arrived in the form of new-age credit bureaus, such as the startup Credit Vidya. "For people with no credit scores, we help create an alternative one and help them take loans," says Abhishek Aggarwal, cofounder. They scan customers' digital footprint using AI and data analytics to vet creditworthiness. With smaller loans and shorter credit cycles, "these startups are able to understand behavioural patterns within a shorter timeframe," says Vivek Belgavi, partner (fintech leader), PWC India. 74420599 74420604 74420608 Shopping websites are by far the biggest cheerleaders. Amazon offers EMI schemes from 25 lending partners, and three of every four customers of large appliances use it. Vikas Bansal, director, emerging payments, Amazon Pay, says: "Zero-cost EMI is used frequently and has grown five-fold in two years." Flipkart Pay Later scheme allows buyers to pay by the 10th of next month at no extra cost. Flipkart's Cardless Credit offers Rs 1 lakh credit to shop for large ticket items. "These offerings make online payments easy, affordable and expand access to tier-2 and -3 markets," says a Flipkart spokesperson. MakeMyTrip offers zero-cost-EMI travel plans with products such as TripMoney targeted at international travellers. "EMIs help make travel affordable. We have seen that customer spend increases 2x under zero-cost EMI plans," says Rajesh Magow, group CEO, MakeMyTrip.Macro RipplesThis retail credit growth has larger implications for the economy. "These are structural shifts. We will see access to credit and financial inclusion go up," says DK Joshi, chief economist, CRISIL. At a time when consumer demand is weak, retail credit has helped. It also has an impact on India's household savings rate, which is coming down. With insufficient domestic savings, India will have to lean on foreign funds to finance investment, says Joshi.India's rising household debt and lowering savings rate must be seen in a global context. "India's household debt is at its highest. But in other economies, it is way higher. We have barely entered double digits," says Sinha of India Ratings. As per IMF data, household debt for China and the US stands at 54% and 76% of the GDP, respectively. India's is at 11%.Jahangir Aziz, head, emerging market economics at JP Morgan, makes two important points. "In recent times, household credit has risen while it has declined for the industry. Granular data is unavailable but I have a feeling consumer loan at least partly is disguised loan to MSMEs." Two, he feels that Indian policymakers should rethink being so concerned about lowering savings rate and retail credit expansion. "I don't agree that savings is good and consumption is bad," he says.Lending in India, from being mostly collateral-based, is now seeing the rise of unsecured credit, with NBFCs and fintech firms leading the charge. A Kantar banking study reveals that credit card ownership and unsecured credit among 21-35-year-olds have jumped in the last three years. "Retail credit is good for the economy but it also runs the risk of bad loans rising," says Madan Sabnavis, chief economist, CARE Ratings. 74420649 74420656 Irrespective of what policymakers might want, expect retail credit boom to continue. "India is still a nascent and under-penetrated market with 230 million credit-eligible customers, 50 million credit cards and just 37 million consumers," says TR Ramachandran, group country manager, India and South Asia, Visa. "The biggest growth is in the 25-30 years age group," he says. Fintech startups, which issued 40% of all personal loans in the US in 2019, compared with just 28% by banks, will play a critical role. "In India, new digital credit is just 1%. Credit landscape is undergoing a revolution," says Sharma.Are We Ready?A big population of young people, with limited exposure to banking and credit are now being bombarded with mouth-watering deals, easy credit, benefits-packed credit cards and irresistible discounts. Things can go south pretty quickly.Like Chandigarh-based Tarun Gill, 25, who is new to the world of credit. "In my village in Punjab, people used to borrow from each other instead of a bank." Now, working for three years, he has a credit card with a credit limit of Rs 1.5 lakh. Last year, he ran up a bill of Rs 60,000 buying gifts for his girlfriend. "Till today, I have not been able to pay back. I have stopped using that credit card," he says. Meanwhile, interest accrued is rising sharply as he rolls over the credit, paying just the minimum. He hopes to settle the dues soon with his upcoming performance incentives.Mumbai-based Agnelo Rodriguez, 42, a private sector executive, knows how bad it can get. His love affair with credit cards began about eight years back and, at its peak, he held five cards. Free credit cards with no annual charges initially felt harmless. "I didn't bother to understand the charges fully," he says. Soon, his credit cards funded his impulsive expenses — shopping, birthday parties and large-ticket items such as a television set. "When the bill was huge, I would opt for the 'pay minimum' amount, not realising the kind of interest I was paying," he says. Once, he took out cash on his credit card to pay his home loan EMI. Soon, he found himself in a vicious debt trap, running up an outstanding amount of more than Rs 8 lakh, which was far beyond his means to pay. Somehow, with help from friends and family, he settled the dues two years ago. "I don't want to touch credit cards ever again," he says. Even zerocost EMIs don't tempt him. "Now I buy only if I have money in the bank. Instead of making it look so rosy, I wish somebody had educated me on the flipside of credit cards."Although very small right now, startups such as Creditbazzar, KrazyBee and Exceedcash offering payday loans are growing rapidly in India. These are ultra short-term (7 to 30 days), unsecured, app-based loans often offered within 60 minutes, at times at a hefty 1-1.5% interest rate per day (works out to annualised 365%-plus interest rate), against credit card's 2-3% on monthly basis for rolled-over credit. Reportedly, about Rs 400 crore is being disbursed by payday loan companies every month.Payday loans have been banned by many states in the US. China caps the interest rates but in India they remain unregulated. "Nobody talks about these things to the younger ones, either in school or at home," says financial educator Mrin Agarwal, founder, Finsafe India. Driven by current needs, many are on a credit-fuelled consumption spree, not thinking through eventualities such as layoffs, pay-cuts as well as health or family emergencies.In case of an unexpected eventuality, most Indians have little to cushion the impact. "Amid missing social security, our households' capacity to absorb economic shocks and remain creditworthy is limited. This will create challenges for consumers and also constrain future credit growth," says Sinha of India Ratings. Unlike mature countries with robust social security nets, in India, you are on your own or at the mercy of family or friends in the event of trouble. Says Desai: "Debt-led life can often spiral downwards. With low economic growth and fraying social cushion, consumers' ability to absorb shocks in difficult times will be limited. Debt distress will go up."Startups such as Cred, founded by Kunal Shah in 2018, are offering help by bringing in some transparency. Cred members, who have good credit history, get access to attractive offers and reward points. The app helps them keep track of their credit card spends, payment dues and charges accrued in one place while helping businesses access creditworthy customers.Meanwhile, in Kolkata, a generational war is raging between Das junior and senior. "I want to buy a car (on a loan). My father would not let me. He hasn't even bought a bicycle in his life. How do I convince him?" the son asks, in exasperation.

Apollo Hospitals gears up for its next phase of growth

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CHENNAI: Among the last things you expect as you enter a radiation therapy room for cancer patients is personalised settings for ambient light and music. Depending on whether you select the Underwater, Sky or Jungle theme, the ambience turns to your liking, as you walk through a short, maze-like path, into the heart of the Apollo Proton Cancer Centre in Chennai — a sphere-shaped apparatus called a gantry that looks like a CT scan machine from the future.The relaxed ambience stands in contrast with the heavy duty technology at play in the room. The room is fortified with 13-20-feet-thick concrete walls to contain the radiation. Out of sight, behind the sphere, is an imposing equipment that stands three-storeys tall. The cyclotron, which looks like it belongs in a nuclear facility than a hospital, accelerates charged proton particles in a controlled fashion into the radiation bay, where therapists direct them to tumours with very high precision. Proponents of the technology claim that it is more precise and causes less tissue damage in adjacent areas, resulting in superior clinical outcomes.74419441 The swank, 150-bed advanced cancer facility, built at a cost of Rs 1,100 crore, is a testament to the ambitions and risk appetite of Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd, India's largest hospital chain by beds, revenue and market capitalisation, and the unique family-led management at the helm, comprising of 88-year-old chairman Prathap Chandra Reddy and his four daughters. The proton centre was built at a time when there were concerns about the levels of debt the company was accumulating, as well as the promoter pledge of shares. But Reddy says he wouldn't flinch.He wanted the proton centre. The Reddys eventually decided to sell Apollo's insurance business, which helped them reduce the pledge and also enabled the company to pare its debt.Business Overview 74419450 74419455 Note: Beds, hospitals and pharmacies as of December 31, 2019. *Includes multi-specialty clinics, diagnostic, diabetes and fertility centres, among othersSource: Company, Stewart & Mackeritch Wealth ManagementThe heavy investments it made in the last few years, including the proton centre (launched early 2019) and India's first robotassisted cardiac surgery unit in Bengaluru (launched December 2019), appears to have won the approval of investors. The company's stock has been climbing, hitting an alltime high of Rs 1,800 on February 20. 74419478 In a difficult business that demands adroit balancing of the needs of the clinical side with the realities of the business side, Apollo, which pioneered private hospitals in India, now appears to have cast aside the debt overhang, and is now embarking on a new phase, with focus on consolidating its leadership position, growing its nascent online pharmacy business and using technology and preventive healthcare to help stem the growing burden of non-communicable diseases on India.The Proton BetThe claimed benefits notwithstanding, the expensive proton technology is a risky bet. As many floundering facilities in the US have discovered, it is hard to fill such hospitals with patients with the ability to pay, and also to convince insurers to cover the cost of proton treatment. 74419577 But Apollo has some advantages. Its catchment area is not just India, where cancer cases are burgeoning. There isn't another proton facility in South Asia, West Asia or Southeast Asia. Australia doesn't have one either. The centre's first patient, when it opened its doors early last year, was from Sydney. Most existing facilities are in Japan, the US and Europe. There are some 90 such facilities in the world.A recent study by the University of Pennsylvania found that proton therapy reduced the risk of serious side effects by two-thirds relative to photon treatment. But because the advancements in the technology have been rapid, there are no long-term studies establishing its superiority in clinical outcomes over the conventional treatment. But there are enough doctors who want the technology for their patients. In India, five private insurers and a group of state-owned insurers cover the cost of proton therapy. But proton therapy is not cheap, costing Rs 25-30 lakh on average per treatment. 74419586 Apollo has treated around 160 patients with proton therapy, according to Preetha Reddy, the company's executive vice chairperson. "It is now a proven standard of care. When we took that risk, we were like, we know it's good, our clinicians are saying it's good, but is there data to prove that this is the best standard of care? Now it's all there." Was it not a risk then to make such a big bet on the centre? "If you call it a gamble, then for the chairman to come back from the US, where he had a phenomenal practice and where he could have lived quite comfortably, to start Apollo was (also) a gamble," Preetha Reddy tells ET Magazine during an interview in Chennai.Madam Prime MinisterPrathap Reddy, a cardiologist, left his job in Mt Vernon, Missouri, to move to Chennai (then Madras), where he had gone to college, in 1970. Reddy and his wife, Sucharitha, were not happy raising their four daughters—the oldest of whom is Preetha, now 62—in the midst of the drugs- and free-love-fuelled hippie movement. Another factor in the Reddys' decision was the desire of Prathap Reddy's father to have them back in India. "My daughters were all below 12 so they couldn't resist," recounts Reddy with a smile at the company's headquarters near its first-ever hospital, 40 minutes north of the proton centre.In the late 1970s, when Reddy, a native of Andhra Pradesh's Chittoor district, was working at a hospital in Chennai, he started wondering if he could set up one himself in the city, especially after one of his patients died because he couldn't raise $50,000 to go to the US for a cardiac surgery.But a legal framework to establish a hospital as a for-profit entity virtually didn't exist then, as state- or trust-run hospitals were the norm. The establishment's contempt for private enterprise then didn't help. Reddy had to make several trips to New Delhi to convince politicians and bureaucrats in New Delhi, often in his poor Hindi. 74419593 In 1979, Prime Minister Charan Singh, who was also the finance minister then, saw no merit in Reddy's plans, tearing up his proposal. But Reddy was lucky. Indira Gandhi, who returned as PM in 1980, warmed to his idea and even encouraged him to consider locating the hospital in Andhra Pradesh or Karnataka, states ruled by her Congress party, instead of Tamil Nadu, which was then governed by the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, according to a biography of Reddy. Though he had Gandhi on his side, Reddy found it hard to get through to the then Tamil Nadu chief minister, MG Ramachandran. Whenever Reddy went to meet Ramachandran, the latter would pretend to be asleep. Reddy went back to Gandhi, who asked her cabinet secretary to persuade Ramachandran. That did the trick.Ever since the first Apollo hospital was opened in September 1983, the company has come a long way. The company now has 71 hospitals in its network, including five it manages, and nearly 10,300 beds. "Apollo is a great execution story in the healthcare space. They took the lead by setting up the first multi-specialty hospital in many cities," says Vishal Bali, executive chairman of Asia Healthcare Holdings and former CEO of Fortis Healthcare. 74419602 Family Concern"None of us went to B-school. We learnt management by walking around and listening, an art that we picked up from our father," says Preetha Reddy. Prathap Reddy, who now focusses his attention on ways to tackle non-communicable diseases, still does frequent rounds of the hospital near the company headquarters, talking to patients, doctors and the staff.Apollo also runs the country's largest pharmacy chain, with 3,700 stores. The business contributed 40% to the company's consolidated revenues of over Rs 9,600 crore in FY 2019. Apollo also has over 900 diagnostic centres, diabetes and dental clinics, among others. "Apollo's ability to get to this scale much sooner than its competitors and diversify beyond hospitals has helped it stay ahead of the curve," says Kapil Banga, assistant vice-president at Icra, a ratings agency. 74419691 Prathap Reddy has managed to do this with ample assistance from his daughters, none of whom is a medical doctor. While Preetha Reddy also handles doctor engagement, Suneeta Reddy, 60, is MD and handles finance and strategy. The two younger sisters, Shobana Kamineni (59) and Sangita Reddy (57), are responsible for shaping the company's consumer-facing digital plans. In addition, Kamineni, who is executive VC, heads the pharmacy business, and Sangita, who is joint MD, is in charge of operations and the technology used in healthcare delivery. While Prathap Reddy, Preetha and Suneeta are based in Chennai, Kamineni and Sangita are in Hyderabad. Sangita is also the president of the industry body Ficci.The siblings' well-defined roles within the company, and their father's continuing involvement in strategic decision-making, have helped the Reddys stave off potential conflicts which have torn many a family-run business apart in India. Between them, the sisters have 10 children and four grandkids. During meetings over two days in Chennai, ET Magazine reporters observed that the five of them were often in touch over the phone, discussing urgent business, inquiring about their father's wellbeing, passing on word about the death of a family friend. Asked to recall how they resolved a recent conflict among the sisters, Suneeta Reddy said she couldn't recall an instance when such a resolution was necessitated. 74419701 "Everyone is very affectionate. At least until now. That's very fortunate," Prathap Reddy said, while discussing his grandchildren and their involvement in the business. He was referring to the entire family unit. Prathap Reddy says he has been talking to his grandkids to understand their expectations. "They can just enjoy the dividends or they can be managers. If the five of us could create so much, the ten of them could do a lot more." The Reddys have put together a succession plan, which Preetha Reddy calls a "work in progress", for the sisters to take turns as chairperson of the company after Prathap Reddy. "Families that say everything is cast in stone may not be doing the right thing," says Preetha Reddy.Though the next generation is clearly being groomed for the future, at the moment, the four Reddy sisters are firmly in charge.Digital PivotResponding to concerns over the company's ballooning debt thanks to the proton centre and the addition of new hospitals in Guwahati, Navi Mumbai, Lucknow and Indore, and over nearly a fifth of the promoters' stake in Apollo being pledged, the Reddys in June 2019 decided to sell the Apollo group's 50.8% stake in Apollo Munich Health Insurance to HDFC for Rs 1,336 crore. Apollo Hospitals held 10% in the insurance venture and the promoters the rest.This, along with a Rs 500 crore gain from restructuring the frontend of the pharmacy business to comply with foreign direct investment norms, will help the company pare its net debt from Rs 3,522 crore as of December. The company's free cash flow (cash generated by a business, net of operating and capital expenses) also turned positive in FY 2019 after being negative for six straight years and will only increase further as the company's annual capital expenditure is now only Rs 200 crore, compared with an average of Rs 690 crore between FY 2015 and FY 2019, according to Stewart & Mackeritch Wealth Management. 74419710 The proportion of the promoters' pledged shares has declined from 78.1% in March 2019 to 29.6% in February 2020, according to a company filing with the stock exchanges, thanks in part to the sale of a part of their stake. These steps, coupled with impressive results in successive quarters, have made investors bullish on Apollo. The company's shares have risen 51% in the past year, compared with a 3% increase in the S&P BSE 100 index. Kamineni admits she was sad to let go of the insurance venture, which she had built, but she now has set her sights on a new and highly competitive business — selling medicines online. "Insurance will get a traditional multiple. What we are building will get stratospheric multiples."But she does not want to use the playbook of venture capital-funded startups, which rely a lot on discounts to hook customers. "I would invest in providing customers a better service over a longer term instead of giving them discounts. Kamineni hopes to use her wide network of pharmacies, rather than warehouses, to fulfil deliveries of medicines ordered online. "You have to be hyper-local. Delivery costs can kill you." Apollo's e-tailing business is now operational in Chennai and Hyderabad.Pradeep Dadha, founder of Netmeds, an online pharmacy, agrees that physical stores can indeed cut delivery expenses. But warehousing has its advantages, he adds, citing the example of the drug atorvastatin, which has over 500 brands in the market. "Due to the low acceptance of substitution by patients, it becomes enormously difficult to maintain fillrates for brick-and-mortar stores. A typical retail store would stock around 3-7k SKUs (stock keeping units), as opposed to 170k+ SKUs available in the market. This is where online pharmacies have an inherent advantage." 74419713 Besides the e-commerce foray and the proton centre, Apollo is looking to grow its health & lifestyle division. In two years, the company has grown its network of retail centres for diagnostics, dialysis, dental and child care and shortstay surgery, among others, from 472 to 917. Sangita Reddy, who heads Apollo Health & Lifestyle, is also driving the group's efforts at using artificial intelligence and analytics to make healthcare delivery faster and more precise."What the robotic arm gives you in surgery is greater access and accuracy, minimal peripheral tissue damage, minimal blood loss and faster recovery." Apollo is also working on AIinterpreted CT scans which can reduce the time taken to initiate a surgery in case of brain haemorrhage from an hour to as short as five minutes.Even with the threats of price caps on drugs and medical devices, as happened with coronary stents in 2017, and state-funded insurance schemes such as Ayushman Bharat, which are not be profitable to hospital chains, the healthcare sector in India has much to look forward to. India, after all, has just nine hospital beds for every 10,000 people, compared with more than four times the number in China. Naturally, the demand for quality healthcare is only bound to grow. And Apollo is in good shape to tap into that.

Three-day bank strike from March 11 deferred

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KOLKATA: The proposed three-day bank strike in the country called by various unions from March 11 has been deferred following 'positive' developments at the bipartite meeting held in Mumbai on Saturday, an AIBEA statement said here. The strike had been called by the constituents of United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), the umbrella body of the trade unions in the banking sector. All India Bank Employees' Association (AIBEA) statement said that in the bipartite meeting, which was held between the unions and Indian Banks Association (IBA), discussions were held in respect of offer of increase in pay slip cost to 15 per cent, demand for five-day banking among others. The statement added that IBA has agreed to discuss all other issues raised by the unions. Bank unions had observed a two-day strike from January 31 after talks over wage revision failed to make headway with the IBA.

Nifty unlikely to go back to 12,000 for a long time: Gautam Shah

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What are you telling your HNI clients? In one of the tweets you mentioned, global set up is becoming shaky. Are they in profit because some of them would have been short anyway?It is a pretty sorry state of affairs right now. The foundation of this fall was laid six months back. It is a very synchronised decline that is happening across the globe and this is not a short term correction but more of a short term downtrend that is unlikely to end in a hurry. Given the factors that we are dealing with right now, not many market participants know how to position themselves and the chart themselves have been quite weak for the last couple of months. The manner in which we have come off, the kind of momentum that we are seeing on the way down with India VIX coming back to levels of 23 and too many stocks helping the Nifty go lower, we feel that 11,100 is a level where the market could actually find some support. The problem is the Bank Nifty has only now started its down trend after outperforming for the last four to five days. So, we are working with a number of about 28,500 and eventually 27,700. Clearly, there is a lot more pain in this market. It is not going to rebound and go back to visiting lifetime highs which is something that people have become used to in the last three years.This will require a lot more price damage and time damage and while there could be recovery from time to time, the themes that we recommend our subscribers at this point are healthcare, IT, chemicals and insurance. Barring these four themes, just about everything else in the market is quite weak.Charts are telling you that the long-term structure of the market looks difficult and shaky, especially on the global front. How do Indian broader markets look to you?Well the broader market is the puzzle that I am still trying to solve because the midcap index saw an excellent move from about 15,000 to 18,500 levels. We ourselves are working with that 18,500 level on the midcap index because it was the high of 2019. It is exactly the level from where the midcap index has started to reverse in the last couple of weeks. This recovery is for real. The top midcap stocks, if you look at the top 50 or the top 100, have actually outperformed the mainline indices and the front line stocks in the last many weeks, whereas, the usual underperformers have just got weaker and weaker. This trend will continue. In this market one should be looking at relative strength. The midcap recovery is here to stay from a longer-term perspective. Right now, the Street might look terrible but the broader market is clearly an opportunity for 2020. This is a year where you will have to be stock specific because in the last couple of years it was all about index investing. In 2020 and even 2021, it will be very stock specific. The themes that I highlighted earlier are where we see the greatest opportunities. We are underweight large caps, overweight midcaps and that is a theme that should carry on for the rest of this year.How are you analysing Dow, because Dow has started to crack meaningfully after a nine year rally?It is quite scary. I have been in the camp which believed that what happened in the last six months was not so healthy because every time the Dow made a new high it did not have any support of the technical studies; we are not talking about the daily or the weekly charts, we are talking about the monthly charts. This was the problem for India as well because for the first time in a couple of years, the monthly charts had turned negative and that is probably the reason why after Nifty hit 12,100, we came with a 1,000-point fall target.For Dow itself, the interim support is about 25,500. It may find some support out there in the next few trading sessions. But broadly if you look at it in the context of the rise it has seen in the last decade and what has happened in the last seven days, it is just too small and therefore there is a lot more room for Dow to fall. It may test levels of 22,000 to 22,500 and that is a reason I believe that this downtrend is not going to end in a hurry. One should stay protected in some of the precious metals like gold and silver. They look excellent on the chart and you need to be in some of the other markets in the world which are insulated to what is happening right now.What is your view on pharma because that has gone through a six year weak phase and even now things are not changing a whole lot? Where do you see it go?Unfortunately, the NSE Pharma index is not a good indicator of what pharmaceuticals or the healthcare stocks have been doing. This is because Sun Pharma is a very large contributor to the NSE pharma index. On the other hand, the BSE healthcare index is much better placed. Even in a market like today, you have a Dr Reddy's which is positive while so many other pharma stocks are down significantly. So, stay with the winners. That is the theme that we have been highlighting to our subscribers. You have to be in stocks that are exhibiting relative strength. So, Dr Reddy's, Biocon are stocks that we like over the medium term.How long can this correction last in your view? How to negotiate these trades that you are talking about?Well usually whenever the downtrend starts, the first legs leads to a lot of price damage and then then there is a lot of time correction. We are entering that phase wherein the price correction could possibly end. After that probably the market would just consolidate in the 11,000-11,600 kind of a band. If that happens, you will see market participants coming back into the market. But do not expect this market to go back to 12,000 and beyond at least for many many months to come. The year 2020 is going to be a challenging year overall.

Gold in for dream run as virus raises demand for safe haven

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By DK AggarwalIn the last quarter of Calendar 2019, the world economy had just started dropping some green signals amid the first phase of trade deal between the US and China. And markets were expecting more strength in riskier assets and a little pause in safe haven buying in gold.However, the buoyancy was shortlived due to outbreak of coronavirus in China and rapid spread of the virus to other countries. This health hazard has created an emergency situation not only in China, but in the entire world. Trade activities have come to a halt in many parts of the world on fear of further spread of the virus, causing an immediate negative impact on economies, and ultimately on financial markets. This has triggered safe haven buying in bonds, dollar index and gold.On MCX, gold saw a huge jump and touched a new high of Rs 43,788 from the low of around Rs 39,000, just a few points shy of Rs 44,000 level. In international markets, the yellow metal saw the high of around $1,692, a level never seen in last seven years. Speculative investors are also rushing into safe-haven assets, boosting net long positions in gold to the highest on record going back to 1993, latest CFTC data suggests.Frequent revision of GDP data and various economic data estimates have further strengthened the yellow metal. Expectations of further monetary easing by central banks globally in response to the economic impact caused by the virus continue to provide support for gold. Also, currency debasement by global central banks, extremely low to negative bond yields and continued geopolitical tensions will create that cushion to gold prices and won't let them slip below the key support near $1,520.However, gold prices crashed on Friday along with stocks, which some analysts said happened because a rapidly spreading coronavirus began to impact demand for raw materials. Margin calls may also have impacted futures traders with exposure to other assets.Stock markets, which generally ignored the US-China trade war, news on global slowdown, weak economic data, fragile currency in last few years and continued their uninterrupted Bull Run may now see some suffocation on expectation of slower economic recovery.Most of the markets are down by more than 5 per cent so far in 2020. Hence, to protect their portfolios, people have started parking their money in gold. While higher prices have hit physical demand, investment demand remains on the higher side.The World Gold Council says in January 2020 global gold ETFs and similar products added 61.7 tonnes to their holding, which now stands at all-time high of 2,947 tonnes. Futures market open interest have begun moving higher from $68.7 billion in December 2018 to $141.8 billion in February 2020, the highest since January 2013.Market participants are wondering right now how this situation will eventually play out as the virus spreads to other countries and death toll rises. China seems to have managed to bring the situation under control. If it is contained, then we may see a sudden surge in trading activities, which will boost financial markets and the gold rally may take a pause. If the virus crisis prolongs, then gold may make newer highs in Indian market on investment buying, and touch $1,750 on comex. In Indian market, the yellow metal is most likely to touch Rs 44,600 level in the short term.So, don't take away gold from your portfolio, fall in love with it. It will pay you back in time of crisis and take care of your portfolio wealth. 74412787 Chairman and MD, SMC Investments and Advisors

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